Category Archives: Reflections

Reflections on how we feel and how the mission is changing us

Conversations

It has been just a couple of days since the UIndy Beyond Borders team has returned from our most recent volunteer trip in South Texas. Just a couple of days, yet I have already had several conversations with friends in Indiana concerning the work that we did and explaining the true nature of the humanitarian crisis occurring at the border. And I know there will be more to come.

Though we have returned from Texas, I know that the work is not done. Every day I find myself thinking of those who are likely attempting to cross the harsh Texas desert at this very moment, and hope that the water stations that the Beyond Borders team helped set up will be enough to get them safely to their destinations. These conversations I have with friends and family back in the midwest are just one way that our work continues at home; by talking about our experiences, we are able to help spread awareness of the reality of the humanitarian crisis that is occurring at the border. Living so far removed as we are, it is difficult to fully understand what is occurring there; having now experienced just a small portion of what migrants are going through as they attempt to cross the border better equips me to be able to educate those around me back home. One of our goals has always been to spread awareness of the border crisis and to dispel any of the common misconceptions that are so easily spread by news and media. As I sit comfortably at home, I hope to continue to have these conversations with those around me to help increase awareness and educate as many people as I can.

I will also continue to think about those who aren’t able to do so – those who are still walking through the sand and brush and heat to make a better life for themselves. I can only hope that our work this past week, and our continuing work in the future, will help alleviate the crisis in some small way.

Erica

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Day 6: Numbers

13, 66, 79, 160, 23. These are so much more than random numbers. We have worked tirelessly over the past week and today was no different. Our last full day in Falfurrias began bright and early for two reasons. First, we wanted to try and beat the triple digit Texas heat, but we were also so anxious to get started as we knew this would be our last chance to get as much done as we possibly could. The team was incredibly efficient with our line searches this morning and covered approximately 5 miles of the ranch with the assistance of Don, Eddie, and a third volunteer.

line-search
Conducting a line search

After a quick lunch break we serviced 34 water stations by splitting the route between two groups. Haley and myself traveled with Eddie and were lucky enough to come across a rancher who was so kind and supportive of the work conducted by the South Texas Human Rights Center (STHRC), and it really speaks to the character of the people  of Falfurrias.

Rachel carrying gallons of water to refill a water station
Rachel carrying gallons of water to refill a water station

For the evening we headed to McAllen to meet up with Sister Pam who has assisted previous field seasons but whom I had never met (all the wonderful things I had heard about her are absolutely true). We visited the border wall before going to Palenque Grill for dinner and live mariachi music. It was the perfect way to end our evening.

 

Sunset on the border wall
Sunset on the border wall

Our time in Texas has come to an end and I am so proud of all we were able to accomplish here. Our mission was to provide humanitarian aid to those who desperately need it, including both the living and the dead. Without the support of the ranch owners, the expertise of Deputy Don, the endless work Eddie performs on a daily basis, and encouragement from people like Sister Pam, our team would not have been successful. We are so humbled and extremely grateful to have such hardworking and generous people to work along side. There is so much work that still needs to be done. It can be overwhelming when we’re standing on an acre of land among thousands that still need to be searched, but with every inch of land covered, and with every water station built and filled we are making progress. 13, 66, 79, 160, 23: five numbers that mean so much. We installed 13 new water stations. We serviced 66 additional stations resulting in a total of 79 water stations that were filled with 160 gallons of water. We covered approximately 23 miles of rough terrain under the Texas sun by foot. For us these numbers represent lives saved by available drinking water, these are areas of land that have been narrowed down for future searches, recoveries and identifications that can bring families closure on missing loved ones. These numbers are proof that every small action can have a big impact. Thank you Texas, you have forever changed me and I hope to continue this humanitarian work in the future. Until next time!

Angela

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Day 5: Hot Blooded

“Uncharacteristically hot,” the radio host said as he reported today’s weather in Falfurrias. My thoughts? If it’s going to be uncharacteristically hot for Falfurrias, then it is definitely going to be uncharacteristically hot for us. And the weather did not disappoint!

We began our day bright and early in order to avoid as much of the afternoon heat as possible. We rolled in to Whataburger to get our breakfast taquitos (yum!) before the sun was up, and by the time we made it to the ranch to begin our search, the clouds were providing a nice cover from the sun, keeping the air (relatively) cool for the first couple of hours of our day. I jokingly declared that if I kept my sunglasses hooked to the front of my t-shirt, the skies would remain overcast for the rest of the day. Of course, true to Texas form, I spoke too soon and the sun quickly peeked out from behind the clouds, and with it the temperatures rose.

Sunny skies and dense thickets
Sunny skies and dense thickets

We covered a significant amount of ground while searching on the ranch, bobbing and weaving our way through the spider- and tick-infested thickets, keeping our eyes peeled for any signs of migrants that may have crossed through the area. We were looking for things such as personal effects that may have given us clues as to the last whereabouts of anybody passing through, trails that may have indicated higher traffic areas, and, of course, any signs of human remains that may need to be recovered. As the day wore on, the temperature rose, and our feet grew weary from walking on the sandy terrain for miles, so we decided to head in a bit earlier. The UIndy team, along with Eddie and Jeff, decided to take advantage of the extra afternoon time to take a trip to Roma to see the Rio Grande River on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Systematically searching in the sand
Systematically searching in the sand

Dr. Latham, Haley, and I had all previously taken this trip in May 2017 and so we were delighted to be driving through Rio Grande City to share this experience with our rookies, Rachel and Angela. We also remembered how much hotter it was on the Roma overlook, despite being just over an hour south of Falfurrias, and this time was no different! Roma is a great little town directly on the border, with some gorgeous colorful buildings and one of the world’s greatest bird sanctuaries. It also provides access to some stunning views of both the U.S. and Mexico sides of the Rio Grande River, with the sheer drop offs on the banks of the U.S. side reminding us of the many obstacles facing those who are attempting to cross the border. After spending some time gazing out across the overlook in the hot sun, we were all ready to cool down. Eddie suggested we stop by a snow cone stand on the way back to Falfurrias and we all happily obliged. With the menu mostly in Spanish with small, difficult to see pictures, most of us took Eddie’s advice and ordered the “Mangonada,” a deliciously fruity frozen beverage with a little chili powder kick!

One of the colorful buildings with intricate benches
One of the colorful buildings with intricate benches
Angela on the rocky overlook
Angela on the rocky overlook
Mangonada!
Mangonada!

With our refreshing beverages in hand, we headed back to Falfurrias to plan for our final day in Falfurrias. Today was a great day, and I think we all feel refreshed and invigorated to begin early again tomorrow to cover some more ground on the ranches and repair some more water stations across Brooks County. I can’t believe we only one more day left for this trip, but already feel so grateful for this experience and for all of the experiences and opportunities that we have been able to share with Eddie and Don.

Erica

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